Fit for a belly laugh!
While people across the globe are trying ballroom dancing or even pole dancing, the ancient art form of belly dancing is becoming all the rage in the borough.
Reporter Gaynor Clarke went to a class in Radcliffe to find out why its popularity is soaring.
I had no idea what to expect as I drove to Close Methodist Church in Radcliffe to meet Katy Carmichael, who runs a number of classes across the borough.
The only images I had of belly dancers were women wearing long skirts and crop tops performing in front of audiences in Middle Eastern countries. It seemed a world away from a Thursday night in Radcliffe.
As I stepped into the church building, I was greeted by the sounds of Middle Eastern music being played on a CD player, and belly dancing teacher Katy, wearing a long, flowing skirt and a beautiful tassled scarf around her waist. I felt like I was being transported to another place, another world even.
Katy started teaching belly dancing more than four years ago, holding her first class in Prestwich. Her lessons continue there, with more than 70 women regularly attending each week.
Classes started in Radcliffe in 2004 and they have become more and more popular, with 25 women going to the beginners' class and 15 to the intermediate.
There seemed to be even more women there this week though, with around 40 people squeezed into the church hall for the beginners' class.
The lessons have become so popular that Katy is moving to Radcliffe Civic Suite from October 12 so that the women have more space to dance.
Katy said: "Belly dancing has a number of roots and one of those is from women in the Middle East who danced at home with their mothers and sisters to exercise and have fun. Gypsies also did belly dancing and some women performed for men to make money, so it became linked with prostitution.
"In some parts of Egypt, women are still encouraged not to become belly dancers, and many of them change their names. Thankfully it is changing and people are realising that it is an art form.
"Women in Britain are really enjoying learning how to belly dance. It has become particularly popular with the rise of pop stars like Shakira, who use belly dancing and Bollywood styles. It exercises all parts of the body and burns a lot of calories.
"Radcliffe women are up for a laugh and that's why they decide to come here. There's not a lot to do in the town, especially if you don't want to go to the gym and wear lycra. It provides something more energetic than just going for a walk, but means they can exercise without going to the gym."
As the start of the beginners' class approached, women of all shapes and sizes arrived at the church, ready to dance. The women were from all walks of life and from teenagers to pensioners.
They wore long, flowing skirts similar to Katy's and their laughter echoed around the building. They were clearly game for the challenge, with a sense of humour to match.
Linda Hewitson (38), of Cobden Street, Radcliffe, has been attending the class for around 18 months. She said: "I like the music, the style of dressing, and the fact that it is a good way to reduce stress. You can really let yourself go wild and the dancing makes you feel like a goddess.
"I have met some wonderful people here. No-one's trying to out-do each other. It's just really good fun."
Her words were echoed by Lesley Marsh, of Sandhurst Close, Bury, who has been belly dancing for more than a year. She said: "It is very flexible and fun, and I've strengthened a lot of my muscles. I love the music and dressing up. Everyone has a great time."
Another dancer, Diana Muramaa, of Bury Old Road in Prestwich, said: "I only started coming to the classes a few weeks ago, but it's the ideal exercise for me because I'm getting over a broken leg. It's much better than going to a gym."
As the class started, the women gathered in a circle and Katy started playing the music so that the group could warm up. Despite several invitations to join in, I sat firmly on the sidelines and watched the dancers' skirts twirling and listened to their metallic belts jangling. A light warm-up developed into more energetic drills and dances as the women learned different moves and developed new skills.
Despite being an aerobic exercise, the women still had plenty of time to laugh and were clearly having a good time. How many people can say that when they get on the treadmill?
With the rise of belly dancing in Radcliffe, Katy has formed a troupe called Queens of the Kasbah, where members of her classes can perform in front of an audience. They have already danced at Prestwich Carnival and Party in the Park, and regularly hold fundraising events for Bury Hospice and Bury Cancer Support Centre.
And while Katy may preach the benefits of belly dancing to more than 100 women across the borough each week, she is reluctant to invite men to join the classes.
She said: "I have had a few requests from men wanting to start belly dancing, but I'm not sure it would work well for everyone involved. Women feel very comfortable in the classes and don't worry about their size or shape when they are with other women. I don't believe they would feel the same way if men were here as well.
"It would also be difficult because men and women need to pay attention to different things when they are dancing.
"I hold workshops for mixed groups, but I am already running so many classes across the North West that I don't have time to hold them just for men. That's not to say that men shouldn't belly dance - there are lots of talented male dancers - it's just that I don't teach them."
Katy holds beginners' classes in Close Methodist Church from 7.30pm on Thursdays and intermediate classes from 8.35pm.
She also teaches beginners at the Longfield Centre in Prestwich from 7pm on Tuesdays, and runs an improvers' class from 8.15pm.
Other belly dance instructors hold classes at Holy Cross College, Bury, and at St John in the Wilderness Church Hall in Ramsbottom. Lessons last one hour and cost between £3.50 and £4.
Anyone wishing to learn more about belly dancing classes should contact Katy on 07780 708544 or visit www.learnbellydance.co.uk.